Now that this fire season has come to a close, we’re hard at work getting ready for the next one – but we’re also looking to learn from what happened this year. In 2013, we – and municipalities around the province – worked hard to educate Albertans about how to prevent wildfires. You probably heard us emphasize the huge percentage of wildfires are caused by cigarettes, sparks from off-highway vehicles, and campfires left unattended. So, we wanted to know: did this focus on teaching Albertans how to be FireSmart result in a decrease in human-caused wildfires this season?
Unfortunately, the answer is no – these numbers continued to climb. In 2013, 76 per cent of all wildfires – more than 3 out of 4 – were human-caused. In practical terms, this means that this season, we fought 900 wildfires that were completely preventable. And, as the Flat Top Complex Wildfire Review found, wildfires are now starting earlier in the season than ever.
Nearly 600 of the 1200 wildfires in 2013 started in May alone. Two of these wildfires required community evacuations – of the towns of Nordegg and Lodgepole – on May 12. Fortunately, there were no injuries during the evacuations and residents were able to return home safely once things were under control.
But it’s situations like this that show how important it is to do everything we can to prevent wildfires (and this is true not just in the summer, but year around.) With Alberta’s population still growing (by over 266,000 people since 2008 alone) and more campers, vehicles, industry, and landowners on the land, it’s more important than ever that we all do our part.
And whether you’re at home with a burn pile or sitting around a campfire, it’s easy to be responsible. We’ve said them before and we’ll say them again – here are some basic tips to help prevent wildfire.
- When camping or hiking, never leave your campfire or burn unattended, and be sure the ashes are cool before leaving the site. Soak the ashes, stir them and soak them again.
- Use FireSmart tips to help protect your home from wildfire and download our free app to keep wildfire info at your fingertips if you’re in a high-risk area.
- When using off-highway vehicles in the summer, make sure that your engine and muffler stay free of debris.
- If you conduct a winter burn, make sure you take the appropriate safety precautions. (Stay tuned for tips next Friday.)
- And, most importantly, call 310-FIRE (3473), toll-free, 24/7 to report smoke or fire in the forest.
If you have a specific need or a question, you can find even more info here. So there’s no excuse for not being FireSmart – this holiday season, and the rest of the year.
An audio version of this file is available on SoundCloud.
Media wanting to include this information in a story can get in touch with us at 780-427-8636.